Behaviour change training

Woman presenting chart

Why focus on behaviour change?

Reviewing processes and patterns of behaviour that are embedded in an organisation can be the first step in changing recruitment practices to ensure they are open, accessible and free from bias.

Bias comes from our brains wanting to make the most efficient decision with limited information, which means that we use personal experiences, cultural expectations and social cues to make snap judgements.

This bias is known as unconscious or implicit bias. One study found that identical CVs with just the applicant’s name changed from female to male were viewed as better qualified, were more likely to be hired, and with a higher salary. The implicit bias gave male candidates a huge advantage, despite them being identical to their female counterparts and demonstrates the powerful effect bias can have on recruitment.

Bias can have both an immediate and long-term effect on organisations:

  • in the immediate, recruiting managers who display bias are less likely to be open and inclusive with potential employees
  • in the longer term, the less diverse recruitment decisions lead to a less diverse workforce over time.

When an organisation does not consciously embed open recruitment practice to avoid unconscious bias, the impact could be:

  • the organisation is less likely to be seen as an employer of choice, where it does not represent its diverse local communities
  • those from specific marginalised or protected characteristic groups will be less likely to apply for a role within a given organisation, and less likely to invest in that specific organisation
  • the organisation becomes an unattractive workplace for applicants from all backgrounds
  • this leads to further bias in recruitment.

Being aware of bias, however, does not change behaviour, which is why behaviour change training is helpful to making recruitment more inclusive.

Using behaviour change

NHS Employers has been commissioned by Health Education to deliver a ‘train the trainer’ programme, called Apprenticeships for All, to 20 NHS trusts during 2018-19.

The training programme uses elements and activities of behaviour change to demonstrate why inclusive recruitment is important, how it can be implemented and, also, the impact that not being inclusive has on NHS organisations.                   

Encouraging staff to reflect on their own behaviours, their teams and their organisations, can be an effective tool to help shift line managers' mind sets to encourage them to use inclusive recruitment practices. Such a shift can result in more disabled apprentices and those with learning disabilities being recruited and supported in organisations.

The training that we have delivered will help line managers to:

  • encourage reflection on bias and its role in recruitment, for example, a tendency to choose women candidates for administrative roles, based on this being the previous status quo within an organisation
  • consider how organisational priorities relate to supporting disabled people into employment and training, for example, if one of an organisation's values is respect, then this should translate into open and inclusive recruitment 
  • minimise the role of bias in long-term workforce supply to avoid it affecting recruitment decisions and impacting on retention and development opportunities.

This approach is aimed at supporting individuals and groups to consider new ways of dealing with sustained and repeated challenges. Such an approach alters an individual's perception of an issue, offers alternative behaviours in relation to that issue, which then leads to a different behavioural outcome.

Changing a person’s perception to promote behaviour change can be done in these three ways.

  1. Offering alternative images to help people see old things in new ways, which can reveal new actions that couldn’t be conceived before. With regards to inclusive recruitment, this could be offering alternatives such as working interviews to assess ability rather than a formal interview     
  2. Disrupting stable patterns and creating opportunities for new thoughts and actions to emerge. This could be patterns of embedded recruitment practices which can, over time, become exclusionary if not critically engaged with frequently.
  3. Reframing the stories and symbols people use to make meaning of themselves and their situation. 


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